By Trevor Wenners
Athletic Communications Assistant
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – Back in 2015, nothing was going to take Elias Camacho off the field.
The then-sophomore on the Wesleyan University football team was driving in on a ball during an early-season practice, and his thumb got caught the wrong way, resulting in a heartbreaking injury.
"I went off the field, and I did not know it was broken," Camacho recalled. "I figured there was something out of place. I went to get an X-ray, and was told it was a Bennett fracture, which means the bone that was broken is the bone that connects my thumb to my hand. It was a serious injury. I needed surgery and everything."
Camacho's initial reaction was one of disbelief and sadness, stemming from an offseason in which he worked diligently and countless hours to secure a spot in the starting lineup. The Canton, Mass. native's heart was on full display, as he decided to delay surgery and play through the discomfort.
"My position on the team was flourishing, and it felt like I had that taken away from me really quickly," Camacho said. "I just dug deep, talked to my family and people around the football program, and I decided I did not really care about the break and just wanted to keep playing. I delayed my surgery and played for the rest of the season."
Camacho was a focal point on the Cardinals' defense in 2015, compiling 16 tackles in seven games for a 5-3 squad. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back registered a season-best six tackles during a 24-21 triumph over Colby on Oct. 10.
"I was limited in some ways, but I had to learn how to play with one hand basically, which was definitely a learning experience," Camacho said. "I had to work on my footwork a lot more, and be more reliant on where my teammates were in relationship to me. It made me play the game a little bit differently."
In between his sophomore and junior campaigns, Camacho kept improving on the defensive side of the ball, translating into 16 tackles and a career-best two interceptions in 2016, as the Cardinals finished in a tie for third in the NESCAC Conference standings with a 6-2 mark. The resilient athlete tallied a pair of tackles and an interception during a 59-14 win at Williams on Nov. 5, while recording one pick during a 34-6 triumph over Hamilton on Oct. 1.
Camacho has compiled 11 tackles during a 2-1 start for the Cardinals this fall, including a career-best eight during a 31-9 win at Hamilton on Sept. 30. The dedicated student-athlete has lofty goals this season, as he believes the 24-17 comeback win in overtime over Tufts on Sept. 23 has the ability to push this team to new heights.
"I hope we can bring that same toughness, resiliency and fight that we brought at the end of the Tufts' game, and that we can hold onto that," Camacho said. "I hope we do not become complacent, especially the seniors, and think that there are going to be easy games. The fact of the matter is a team can be less talented than another team, but this is really our last shot to play the best football that we have ever played. I hope we take advantage of the position that we are in."
Camacho, who maintains career marks of 43 tackles and two interceptions, has experienced a great deal of exciting moments as a Cardinal, including three straight winning seasons. Wesleyan, an upper-echelon team in the NESCAC for the last five-plus years, has boasted a .741 winning percentage with a 20-7 record during Camacho's three-plus years.
Still, every player has one moment that stands out among the rest. For Camacho, that time came when the Cardinals rallied from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit against visiting Tufts on Sept. 23. The comeback was great, but the energy in Corwin Stadium and what the win represents means the most, as the Cardinals avoided falling into the difficult-to-rebound-from 0-2 hole.
"I really enjoyed the Tufts' game a few weeks ago," Camacho said. "It was an incredible win during a night game. I was upset with the way last year turned out with losing against Tufts, and it was great to bear down in a game that was similar to the first game this year against Middlebury, where we were down for most of it. That was a fantastic moment, especially at home and having it be a comeback game after we lost by three points in the first game of the year."
The senior standout has taken on more of a leadership role this season, as his wisdom on the gridiron makes him a great reference.
"The best advice I can give underclassmen is to put all their effort and work into football, and put themselves in a great position," Camacho said. "It is also important to keep an eye out for other opportunities that the school has to offer, and really taking advantage of friendships and taking time to focus on different things in the Wesleyan community."
Camacho, who is majoring in economics and English, is focused on his remaining time in a Wesleyan uniform, but graduation is coming quick.
"I am looking into consulting jobs," he said. "I would like to be in a position where I am making an impact for different businesses or the government. I want to embrace difficult challenges that require a lot of problem solving."
Book: The Stranger by Albert Camus
Professor: Professor McCann
Pro Athlete: Tom Brady
Artist: Kanye West
Started Playing Football: 6 years old